The Philadelphia Eagles running back group is questionable to say at the least heading into the 2016 season.
The Eagles kick off the 2016 preseason tonight versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they’re hoping one of their running backs is able to stand out.
Ryan Mathews could be fairly limited for tonight’s game, coming off of his ankle injury while the team’s 5th round pick running back, Wendell Smallwood is ruled out, so there’s plenty of carries to go around during their absence.
Kenjon Barner finally gets his first opportunity to showcase his talent in Doug Pederson’s offense. Barner is expected to receive the bulk of the carries throughout the game.
Rookie free agent running backs, Byron Marshall and Cedric O’Neal, will also be filling in, but Barner gets his shot to prove he’s not just a “Chip Kelly guy.”
The new Eagles coaching staff has been impressed with Barner and his playmaking ability thus far during the team’s training camp. Frank Reich, the Eagles new offensive coordinator, praised Barner the most out of all the running backs during his press conference.
“Kenjon [Barner], I think is a really good, all-around back,” Reich said, when asked about his impressions on the Eagles’ running back group.
“He can make you miss in the open field. I like his vision. He’s doing great in protections. I’ve been very impressed with him the whole offseason.
Of course, when we got here everyone was in my ear about how good this guy is going to be a player, and that’s what we’re seeing.”
Barner will need to step up this preseason in order to make the Eagles 53-man roster. Marshall and O’Neal are hoping to take his spot, while Smallwood aims to take carries away from Barner as well.
Barner has the opportunity tonight to show the Eagles coaching staff that he belongs. Given Mathews unreliability with his extensive injury history and Sproles not being able to handle a feature back workload, Barner could see an increased workload in 2016. Liam Jenkins predicted this back in May after an extensive breakdown of Barner’s Offensive contributions in 2015 which you can check out here.
The Eagles need Barner to step up and add balance to their running back unit. The team is poised to carry four running backs and divide the carries up in order to sustain a successful rushing attack as a group, not individually.
The team was 14th in rushing a year ago, but looks to improve that margin in 2016. It’s Barner’s time to shine. He’ll have every opportunity to do so tonight and throughout the preseason.